More About Spousetivities

Since Spousetivities started—unofficially in 2008, then more officially in 2009—there has been a lot of speculation about what the program is and what the participants do. I’m writing this post to give a little insight to those that may not know much about Spousetivities and the purpose it serves in the larger IT community.

First, I think it’s important to talk about what Spousetivities isn’t. Spousetivities is not a bunch of women getting together to gossip and go shopping while our husbands/boyfriends/significant others go to technical conferences.

First and foremost, Spousetivities is a community-focused and community-driven program designed to help to promote healthy work-life balance. Spousetivities allows couples (and families) to travel together for business while ensuring that accompanying partners and family members not attending the conference have fun, safe activities to do. This ensures the conference attendee doesn’t have to worry about those traveling with him or her, allowing him or her to fully take advantage of the all the conference has to offer.

Second, Spousetivities is an opportunity for networking and friendship. Many of the participants over the years have remained friends long after the events. Personally, I’ve made a number of good friends through the activities, and I know others have too. Similarly, in some cases, we have been able to support small businesses that are run by participants as we share our companies and ideas with each other. This is a productive and supportive environment that participants have come to love and appreciate over the years.

Third, Spousetivities is a great way to experience the conference’s host city. In an effort to make these activities unique and successful, I update the activities and plans every year. Starting out on tours in individual rental cars in 2008, Spousetivities enjoyed group rates on public tours over the next couple years, and now participants enjoy private tour buses and sometimes even limousines for transportation!

Fourth, Spousetivities is a unique way for IT companies to show they support the community and work-life balance. Spousetivities allows companies to sponsor the activities and show that they believe that the support of one’s spouse/partner and family is important. This year at VMworld 2014 in San Francisco, Spousetivities is thankful for the support of our sponsors: VMware NSX, The Virtualization Practice, VMUG, Xangati, HyTrust, vBackup, Origami Owl, and Wine Shop at Home. The support of our sponsors helps keep costs down and allows Spousetivities to offer private transportation and exclusive tours.

So how did it all begin? After traveling with my husband, Scott Lowe, for several years to conferences, I finally said “No more!” I was tired of his crazy schedules while I sat in hotel rooms or ventured out only to get lost or be bored going places alone. (For those that know me, I am quite the social person so being alone in a big city was not my thing.) Furthermore, finding my way around was challenging, and I once got lost in LA. Believe me, that wasn’t pleasant! I finally agreed to attend VMworld 2008, if Scott would ask if any other spouses were coming and if they’d like to meet for lunch. A flood of responses poured in and the “lunch” quickly became a trip to the Hoover Dam, a Grand Canyon excursion, tours of “the Strip” in Las Vegas, and much more. At the conclusion of the week, everyone asked me to please do it again for 2009. It was very clear there was a need in the community for such activities.

None of this would be possible without the support of the community and the sponsors. The community launched Spousetivities, including the very name. In a conversation during the 2008 activities with John Troyer, the name was born. From there, another friend (Joep Piscaer) secured the URL to launch the website. Before I knew it, Spousetivities was born. Further support came from the community podcast, vBrownBag, numerous people on Twitter and Facebook, and of course the many sponsors over the years. Clearly, the community has built the Spousetivities brand.

There you have it: a clear explanation of who and what Spousetivities is all about. I’ve listened as people make fun of “Spousetivities” and what they perceive the program is. Hopefully, this makes clear what it is, why it exists, and the importance of keeping the program alive and moving forward.


Giving Back to the Community

For seven years, Spousetivities has been fortunate to be part of the VMware/VMworld community. Since 2008, we’ve been the only community-focused and community-driven spouse activities program, and it’s been an honor. Spousetivities exists thanks to the support of the community. However, Spousetivities also exists to provide support back to that same community.

Last week, a member of our community was tragically taken from us. Jim Ruddy died in a car accident, leaving behind his wife Stephanie and their children. This is a horrible loss, and the community continues to mourn his loss. (My husband, Scott, worked with Jim at EMC for a number of years, as did many others.) In honor of Jim and to support the family he left behind, I worked with other members of the community to establish the Jim Ruddy Memorial Fund. As of this writing, that fund had raised over $15,000 to help support Stephanie and the kids in this very trying time.

No amount of money can replace Jim. However, this is a difficult time for Stephanie—not only emotionally and physically, but also financially. For that reason, Spousetivities is setting aside 10% of all proceeds raised by activities at VMworld 2014 to be donated to Jim Ruddy’s family via the Jim Ruddy Memorial Fund.

If you haven’t donated to the Jim Ruddy Memorial Fund yet, please consider doing so. If you (or your spouse/partner/significant other) is participating in Spousetivities at VMworld this year, please know that your participation means also helping a family in their time of need.

Being part of the community means giving back to the community.


Another Look at Why It’s a Great Idea to Sponsor Spousetivities

As I am approaching 5 years of offering Spousetivities at IT events, the questions about what I do and why are swirling in my head. Many people ask why companies sponsor Spousetivities. Below is part of a post from last year detailing why it is so important that the community continue to sponsor these events.

Naturally, I’m a bit biased, but I think that sponsoring Spousetivities is a great way for companies to say “Thank You” and give something back to their employees and customers. When a company hosts a conference, they ultimately expect attendees to give up as much as a week of their time to come hear about their products and how these products or services can benefit them and their employers. Instead of asking attendees to come to a week-long conference and leave their families behind, a Spousetivities sponsor is telling attendees it’s OK to bring the family. While the attendee is learning about that sponsor’s products and innovations, the attendee’s family will be enjoying some great activities. And when the day is done, the attendee and his or her family can be together instead of spending that time apart. Most companies boast a family friendly attitude, and sponsoring Spousetivities is a way to show that attitude in action.

This is true not only for the sponsor companies–those companies that organized the conference–but for all companies. And the size of the company doesn’t matter; I’ve had companies both small and large decide to help sponsor Spousetivities.

In addition to supporting families, sponsoring Spousetivities offers companies a unique way to advertise. Given that their logo is put on T-shirts, menus, blogs, and other items, they have plenty of visibility in the community. Companies benefit not only from their pro-family support, but from the attention drawn to their company through these events. It’s a “win-win” situation for companies.

So, if you’re a company that wants to join in this exciting opportunity to support your employees and customers, and advertise in a unique way at the same time, simply contact me. Upcoming events include EMC World in Las Vegas, Dell Storage Forum in Boston, VMworld US, and VMworld EMEA. I’m still seeking additional sponsors for all of these events. I can also plan activities for other conferences, VMUG’s, or company-hosted events. For more information, please contact me for arrangements.


Why Sponsor Spousetivities?

With spouse activities for EMC World 2011 behind me and VMworld US 2011 right around the corner, I’m actively seeking additional sponsors for Spousetivities. So the question naturally arises: why should I sponsor Spousetivities?

Naturally, I’m a bit biased, but I think that sponsoring Spousetivities is a great way for companies to say “Thank You” and give something back to their employees and customers. When a company hosts a conference, they ultimately expect attendees to give up as much as a week of their time to come hear about their products and how these products or services can benefit them and their employers. Instead of asking attendees to come to a week-long conference and leave their families behind, a Spousetivities sponsor is telling attendees it’s OK to bring the family. While the attendee is learning about that sponsor’s products and innovations, the attendee’s family will be enjoying some great activities. And when the day is done, the attendee and his or her family can be together instead of spending that time apart. Most companies boast a family friendly attitude, and sponsoring Spousetivities is a way to show that attitude in action.

This is true not only for the sponsor companies–those companies that organized the conference–but for all companies. And the size of the company doesn’t matter; I’ve had companies both small and large decide to help sponsor Spousetivities.

In addition to supporting families, sponsoring Spousetivities offers companies a unique way to advertise. Given that their logo is put on T-shirts, menus, blogs, and other items, they have plenty of visibility in the community. Companies benefit not only from their pro-family support, but from the attention drawn to their company through these events. It’s a “win-win” situation for companies.

So, if you’re a company that wants to join in this exciting opportunity to support your employees and customers, and advertise in a unique way at the same time, simply contact me. Upcoming events include VMworld US 2011 and VMworld EMEA 2011, and I’m still seeking additional sponsors for either or both of those events. I can also plan activities for other conferences, VMUG’s, or company-hosted events. For more information, please contact me for arrangements.


2011 Activites

Hello again! It has been a while since I have posted any new content. With a new set of conferences for 2011 getting closer, new posts will be coming more rapidly, so stay tuned! For those of you new to Spousetivities, please see my about page for a little background. For those of you who have had the pleasure of participating, this year will not let you down.

First, I’d like to provide a quick update on the conferences I’ll be covering. This year I am actively planning activities for EMC World, VMworld US, and VMworld EMEA. Both EMC World and VMworld US will be held in Las Vegas, NV; VMworld EMEA will be back in Copenhagen.

For these conferences, I’m currently looking into a wide range of activities. Included in these are some traditional events as well as some that I think are over the top! I am also trying to organize very family friendly activities so that those of you attending either of the US conferences and interested in bringing your children will have options outside of the main Las Vegas area. I am hoping to get some feedback from everyone on activities and events you’d like to see this year and in years to come. I’ve been asked about having informational sessions, cooking classes, spa days, horseback riding, and of course, shopping! I am even trying to get together a “Men’s Day” at Lake Mead for the VMworld US event. After all, it’s not just ladies that are spouses and significant others. More and more women are becoming leaders in the IT industry and I want to make sure they feel like they can bring their spouses and partners to join in the fun.

I would like to thank EMC for already agreeing to sponsor activities once again. EMC is a sponsor of EMC World, VMworld US, and VMworld EMEA. I’d like to thank EMC for helping make these events possible. I am looking forward to adding more names to our list of sponsors soon. If you are a company that would like to be a part of this, please contact me right away. Last year’s sponsors got some great attention through Spousetivites!

As I continue to obtain sponsors and organize activities, I will post updates and information here. In the meantime, please post any ideas, suggestions, or feedback on activities you’d like to see at this year’s conferences in the comments.


Travel Safety

With all the media attention surrounding Americans being warned about travel in Europe, I felt it appropriate to do some research and post my findings here. While nobody is truly safe anywhere these days–including driving to the office each day or sending our children to school–there are some things that travelers in general can do to make their experience a little safer and thus, more relaxing.

  • Use common sense. For example, if there is a package with nobody nearby, walk away and notify authorities. It might be nothing, but it is always better to choose caution.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t be so anxious you have a panic attack, just make sure you are aware of things going on around you.
  • Keep your travel plans to yourself. If you are out in the city, don’t share with the world where you plan to go and what you are planning to do. Also, don’t flash any identifying information that will let a predator know where your hotel is or what room you are in.
  • Keep your money safe. You might say well, duh, on this one but people lose money all the time. In addition, Copenhagen has pickpockets that target tourists. If you have front pockets, keep your money there. If possible, bring little cash and a credit card and photo id. If you must bring cash, keep it in several different places if possible. Keep most of it in your front pocket, but some could be in your wallet or purse, your backpack, and even your sock. If you were to lose your wallet, you would not lose all of your money this way!
  • Have a record of important phone numbers. At your hotel, keep a list of important phone numbers in your safe. This list should include the US Embassy in the country you are visiting (I’ll have this information later in this post for Copenhagen, Denmark), your credit card companies, and emergency contacts in your home country. If you were to lose your phone–where most of us store this information–you would not be at a complete loss this way.
  • Notify family of your travel arrangements. Make sure that at least two friends or family members know your flight information and your hotel information. This is helpful for many reasons including in the event of an emergency.
  • Notify the US Embassy–or the Embassy for your country–of your travel plans. You can do this online. For US citizens, use this link to register your visit with the Embassy: https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/
  • Know how to contact emergency officials. To reach police, ambulance, or fire personnel in Copenhagen, dial 112. To reach the Embassy for emergencies after hours, you may call +45 3341 7400. The Embassy is open from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM. During business hours the Embassy can be reached at +45 3341 7100.
  • Be smart and know the area when traveling at night. For example, you should avoid downtown Vesterbro and Nørrebro at night.

The crime rate for Copenhagen is relatively low. There have been few threats of terrorism but the officials there realize that no area is free from threat of such attacks. The major issues that one should worry about in Denmark or pickpockets and purse-snatchers. Again, using common sense and being aware of your surroundings helps. Keep in mind that these people like to work in groups. One or more persons typically distracts the victim while the another takes your money! This is most common in busy marketplaces and on public transportation. Also, do not leave valuable items in your car if you happen to have a rental.

Again, threats will always exist but there are ways that you can lessen the chances of being a victim of crime in your own country or when traveling abroad. More information can also be found at a variety of websites including the U.S. Department of State. This post is for the purpose of giving you ideas for safe travel and a more enjoyable time when visiting Denmark next week! I look forward to meeting everyone and enjoying another fantastic round of Spousetivities!


Spousetivities is live!

The Spousetivites web site is live! Spouse activities planning for VMworld US 2010 as well as VMworld EMEA 2010 has already started. I’ve already started lining up activities for San Francisco, with a special focus on including activites for people who have already been to San Francisco as well as activities for those new to the area. Hopefully I’ll have a wide range of activities to suit everyone’s interests. There’s still time for you to add your ideas to the mix! Speak up in the comments to add your ideas to the list of possible activities for VMworld US 2010 in San Francisco.

In addition to launching this web site, I’ve also started a new Twitter ID. If you’re a Twitter user, be sure to follow my Spousetivities Twitter account for announcements and other information.

This year is shaping up to be the best year yet! I’m looking forward to seeing everyone at the conferences later this year.